The suspension of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will dominate the NATO-Russia Council’s meeting due in Brussels on Friday.
The meeting will be held at the level of ambassadors and Russia will be represented by Acting Permanent Representative to NATO Yuri Gorlach.
"The sides are planning to outline each other’s’ positions on the INF Treaty, we do not expect any real agreements. They will also discuss military activity in Europe and may mention the situation in Ukraine as well," a diplomatic source in Brussels told TASS.
On June 28, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told reporters that Moscow planned to discuss NATO’s military buildup on the eastern flank and the INF Treaty at the NRC meeting. "We have much to discuss. In addition to the INF Treaty, it is the overall security situation, primarily from the perspective of NATO’s intensified activities and the implementation of plans to strengthen the eastern flank, which likewise makes the situation worse. I think the parties will exchange briefings on the most important military exercises," he said.
"NATO member-countries assure us that they are interested in de-escalation, the tools to prevent dangerous military incidents, that they are interested in making sure that the parties avoid misunderstanding each other’s intentions," he said, stressing that the Council’s meeting would be held at the alliance’s request.
According to Grushko, if "considerations, which can really rectify the situation in the military realm to some extent" appeared after the meeting, "that would be good for the current stage of relations between Russia and the alliance’s members."
He also recalled that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet security bloc, had earlier endorsed statements with specific proposals on cooperation addressed to NATO.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on June 26 suggested holding the NRC meeting after the defense ministers had discussed measures that the alliance would take after the INF Treaty’s suspension on August 2. The NATO chief did not outline these measures but pledged that no new land-based nuclear missiles would be deployed on the member-states’ soil. He declined to answer a question whether NATO countries would increase the number of sea-and air-based nuclear warheads in Europe.
Stoltenberg said NATO expected Russia to return to observing the INF Treaty by destroying its cruise missiles that are allegedly violating the document. He reiterated that Russia was to blame for the US unilateral withdrawal from the arms control treaty.
The US accused Russia of violating the treaty for the first time in July 2014. Since then, Washington has been repeating its claims on many occasions, while Moscow has been rejecting them and advancing counter-claims concerning the implementation of the treaty by the US side. In December 2018, the US set an ultimatum for Russia demanding that it destroy new 9M729 cruise missiles, claiming that they were in breach of the treaty. Russia insisted that the missiles complied with the document’s provisions. The US and NATO countries have ignored all information provided by Moscow.
On February 1, the US announced launching the official procedure of leaving the INF Treaty. The procedure takes six months, and on August 2 the treaty will be no longer in effect.
On July 3, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law the bill on Russia’s suspension of the INF Treaty. The law passed by the Russian lower house of parliament, State Duma, on June 18 and approved by the upper house, Federation Council, on June 26, was published on the official portal of legal information.
The law specifies that the head of state will decide on Russia’s renewal of the treaty. The law comes into force on the day of its official publication.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed between the former Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987 and entered into force on June 1, 1988. The INF Treaty covered deployed and non-deployed ground-based short-range missiles (from 500 to 1,000 kilometers) and intermediate-range missiles (from 1,000 to 5,500 kilometers).